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After a Stellar Weekend, Big Sky Awards Three NAU Athletes

NAU's Matt Baxter, Paige Gilchrist & Adam Keenan
NAU's Matt Baxter, Paige Gilchrist & Adam Keenan

OGDEN, Utah – The Northern Arizona University track and field team is stacked this year, top to bottom and across all event groups, and the Big Sky Conference awarding the squad with three "Athlete of the Week" performances Monday afternoon legitimizes that statement.

Redshirt-junior Paige Gilchrist received her second AOTW nod in as many weeks, while redshirt-junior Matt Baxter and redshirt-senior Adam Keenan received men's track and men's field accolades, respectively.

Over the weekend, the Lumberjacks split the squads and competed in their first true road tests of the 2017 indoor season at the Iowa State Classic and the Don Kirby Invitational. It was in Ames, Iowa, where Gilchrist—for the second-consecutive week—shattered an old-personal best time by 23 seconds. Her latest record-setting performance came in the 5000-meter event last Friday, where the Missoula, Mont., distance star crossed the finish line with a 16:09.04 time and placed seventh overall.

That time for Gilchrist is tops in the conference this season by over 10 seconds, and it puts her at No. 2 on NAU's all-time 5K indoor rankings. Additionally, she also climbed up to fourth-best in Big Sky history, is 28th in the NCAA as of today and ranks first in the mile and third in the 3000-meter events amongst conference athletes this season.

Distance teammate Baxter also ran for a new career-best in the men's version of the 5K last Friday, finishing third overall with an incredible 13:44.27 time. Baxter, a 2016 all-American cross country athlete and all-conference indoor performer in the 5K, now ranks first overall on the 2017 Big Sky Men's 5000-meter performance list and moves into fourth-best all-time in both NAU and Big Sky history. Nationally, the native of New Zealand sits at No. 8 in the country.

Last but certainly not least, Keenan has been waiting all season for a performance like the one he had Friday night at Don Kirby in Albuquerque, N.M., and he got it. The redshirt-senior Lumberjack muscled a personal-best 67-01.25 (20.45m) throw from the weight circle. In fact, in his six attempts, he busted the 20-meter plateau twice—the first two times in his career he has surpassed that distance in the weight.

Keenan, a Canadian-born throws stud from Victoria, British Columbia, placed second overall in that event at Don Kirby, improved his No. 1 ranking on the 2017 Big Sky performance list by over three feet and ranks No. 32 in the NCAA. Additionally, Keenan—the 2016 Big Sky Champ in the weight throw—remains locked in at third on NAU's all-time list, but slid up from ninth to sixth on the Big Sky's.